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Neopolis working on another ‘first’ — Flowood Town Center

Flowood — Neopolis Development, LLC, is at it again. The developers of the Town of Lost Rabbit, a large, mixed-use project on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Madison County that is the first of its kind in Mississippi, the company is now working on Flowood Town Center, Rankin County’s first traditional neighborhood development (TND).

Richard Ridgway, a developer with Neopolis, said Flowood Town Center is by far the most complex project he has ever worked. Thus, he has been surprised by the response.

“I’ve never been involved in a project where there has been absolutely no opposition,” he said. “We’re extremely excited about Flowood Town Center.”

The planner is Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, a Miami-based developer that specializes in “New Urban” developments. It also partnered with Neopolis on Lost Rabbit, which broke ground last summer and has already totally sold phase one of the development.

TND goes urban

While both Lost Rabbit and Flowood Town Center are both TND projects and a New Urbanism concept, the similarities are few past that. Whereas Lost Rabbit is in a rural setting, Flowood Town Center will be an “urbanscape” — a town within a town. Even city government might find a home in the new development.

“We haven’t worked out the logistics, and an agreement is not in place, but the City of Flowood is talking about moving city hall into Flowood Town Center,” Ridgway said. “(Flowood Mayor) Gary Rhoads and city leaders should be commended. They have a vision for the town that is extremely progressive.”

In fact, the vision of the City of Flowood has pushed the project up several notches. Originally, Neopolis was planning only a commercial development that included discount retailers. Rhoads told Neopolis that his city had enough discount retailers — he wanted high-end retailers.

When Ridgway explained that the funds were not in place to upgrade prospective tenants, Rhoads had an answer. And when they talked of a revolutionary commercial-residential project, Rhoads was nothing if not thrilled, according to Ridgway.

“He said if we get more upscale retailers, he would give us more money,” Ridgway said. “That’s when the plans for Flowood Town Center began to take shape.”

Coming together

Flowood Town Center is a $325-million development encompassing more than 250 acres at the southwest corner of the intersection of Mississippi 25/Lakeland Drive and Old Fannin Road, the heart of a recent explosion in development activity and directly south of the Dogwood Festival shopping complex. Construction is slated to begin this summer, and will be built in phases over the next eight to 10 years, eventually covering approximately 140 acres of the site.

Centered on a 28-acre lake that has already met regulatory approval, the development will provide a wide range of both residential and commercial offerings. Plans are for approximately 650 residences to be built that will accommodate approximately 1,000 residents. These residences will range from condominiums and townhouses to carriage houses and larger single-family homes. In addition, there will be a “downtown core,” featuring a mix of commercial and residential buildings of three to four stories, allowing the possibility to live and work in the same building.

The line up of commercial tenants is still being formed. Plans call for between 750,000 and one million square feet of commercial space.

All of these plans were discussed and firmed up during a weeklong workshop, or “charrette,” held in Flowood January 19-25. The public was invited to hear from developers and architects, and give their views on the development. Ridgway said the charrette was an unqualified success, and once again added that Neopolis has received no opposition to Flowood Town Center to date.

While the Town of Lost Rabbit may be different, still Ridgway said Neopolis is taking lessons learned there and applying to the new Rankin County development. One advantage the company has with Flowood Town Center that it does not enjoy at Lost Rabbit is “SmartCode.”

SmartCode is a new concept for zoning. Instead of use, SmartCode groups facilities of similar size. So, the approach allows for grouping of like buildings, creating a similar development to those laid out before the advent of modern zoning requirements. For instance, the zone “T-3” mirrors suburbia. “T-4” looks like traditional residential, while “T-5,” the zone in which the town center will be located, includes vertical development such as commercial on the bottom floor with residential space above it.

Both Lost Rabbit and Flowood Town Center are examples of the “New Urbanism” movement. The concept looks to recapture the “old-town” feel of communities of the past, defeating urban sprawl and gridlock caused by the lack of traffic flow, a strategy that only works with the SmartCode.

All of this is near and dear to Ridgway’s heart. New Urbanism may be a new concept to some, but not to Ridgway, who champions the whole idea.

“Why build a TND?” asked Ridgway. “Well, for one they are profitable. Two, they are beautiful. And three, they are redemptive. A recent National Association of Realtors’ poll showed 55% of Americans want to live in this kind of development.

“We live in a fractured society. We live one place, work at another and shop somewhere else. We are disconnected. When I went to school every day, I walked. People want that. They want to be able to walk to work. They want a feeling of place where you know your neighbors. They want a sense of community.

“TNDs are profitable and attractive, but the primary reason I love them is that they reconnect communities, people. I find that extremely rewarding.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

About Wally Northway

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